This Saturday in Atlanta, TRG-Aston Martin Racing North America hopes to make history during the final round of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship at Petit Le Mans. The Aston Martin team, with driver Christina Nielsen at the wheel, enters the final round with only a single point lead, but with high hopes to produce the first Aston Martin and female driver to win a major North American championship.
Pressure mounts for the October 3rd shootout between TRG-AMR and competitors Ferrari and Audi; an incredibly close, highly tactical race between these three top teams that will leave viewers at the edge of their seats for the entire duration of the race. This weekend’s Petit Le Mans in Atlanta is an endurance race, lasting 10 hours and presenting a variety of challenges to TRG-AMR and the competition. Christina Nielsen, daughter of Danish auto racing driver Lars-Erik Nielsen, is leading the championship with 199 points in the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 auspiciously numbered 007.
The young Nielsen has been attracting the attention of fellow drivers, spectators and the media being the sole female on the track with a promising race record. Under the TRG-AMR banner, Nielsen started the 2015 racing season with the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and competed in two of the most prestigious GT Championships, the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship in GTD Class and the Pirelli World Challenge in GTA Class. Since 2010, the 23-year old has entered 153 career GT races and made the podium 14 times, with just one win so far in the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge.
Scott Rodgers, chief creative officer and co-founder of Tier10, recounted the experience of seeing her race live at one of the events of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge, “It’s just crazy to watch her race. The way she acts is just what you would expect to see from someone who’s been driving these types of cars for 10, 15 years. To even make the podium is a battle. She’s agile, she’s fresh, and she’s dominating.”
From behind a curtain of rising exhaust, the world of international GT racing has revealed its growing popularity. Unlike Formula One racing, the world of GT racing has long been the domain of wealthy European sports car manufacturers, making it inaccessible to many viewers. However, GT racing in recent years has attracted talented young drivers like TRG-AMR’s Nielsen and strong manufacturer teams, and highly strategic endurance racing styles that once lacked excitement have become fiercer. This, along with the allure of the sports cars themselves, has amassed a growing following.
Over the past 18 months, GT racing has even become of serious interest to those in the technology industry. Today’s racing vehicles incorporate elite technology in their engineering and sophisticated sensors that measure G-forces and other data to improve driving function and efficiency. Today’s GT racing comes down to math and physics, so it’s no surprise that it has become an item of interest for many of the tech elite of Silicon Valley. Beyond the applied technology, the race track serves as the perfect setting for networking opportunities and potential business partnerships. TRG-AMR enjoys partnerships with several companies outside of the automotive realm, including IT companies like LaSalle Solutions and PassTime and electrical manufacturer Orion.
Several Tier10 executives met the TRG-AMR team and Nielsen at the Automotive Leadership Roundtable in March of 2015. At the end of March, Tier10 partnered with TRG-AMR, traveling to Florida for the 2015 St. Petersburg Grand Prix, to document Nielsen’s progress in this event of the Pirelli World Challenge Series.
Andrew Diffenderfer, director of client services at Tier10, explained “With Tier10 serving the automotive industry, we are firm believers of seeing women become a bigger part of the industry and having more impact. That’s how we began to talk to TRG and specifically Christina. Both of our companies share common threads and the opportunity to go down and spend some time with them as a part of their journey was pretty cool.”
Rodgers went into further detail about the creative facet of the experience, filming footage of the race, and interviewing Nielsen, “My team and I are presented with a lot of interesting opportunities, I would say this was one of the coolest so far. The challenge: Tell the story of the entire weekend in three minutes. Oh, and by the way, anything can happen so get ready. … We took the opportunity to go down [to Florida] and find out who she really is. You could just tell from her determination that it was kind of a frustrating weekend for her: there were some car issues – mostly due to missteps by other drivers – and some accidents that happened.”
Unlike the other racing teams on the track, TRG-AMR is a newer, private team without the resources of one of the larger manufacturers with a racing team. In an age where motorsports is highly dependent on technology, to be without the leverage of larger manufacturer support is no less than impressive.
“If you look at the factories behind each race team, Aston Martin is not, on the consumer end, a high volume car manufacturer, right? Unlike Mercedes-Benz or Ferrari or Audi. Audi has a rich racing history. I think it was just last year that [TRG] transitioned over to Aston Martin and to dominate at this level is outstanding,” said Rodgers.
If Nielsen and TRG-AMR are as successful as predicted, their victory will be groundbreaking. Regardless of the Nielsen legacy and Christina’s acheviements in the past year with TRG-AMR, only the outcome of this high-stakes weekend at Petit Le Mans will prove if her handling on the track and the engineering marvel of the GTD Aston Martin Vantage 12 are worthy of the championship title.
Diffenderfer has no doubt that Nielsen and the team will have an impact on the world of motor sports, no matter the outcome, “[TRG-AMR] is not as established of a program and to do the things they’ve done this quickly … even if they don’t win the championship, how far they’ve come is highly impressive.”
Sources: Driver Database, Motorsport, NY Times, The Motorsport Journal